AFTER AN EDUCATION in international business and finance in Louisiana, Ng Soo-jiang, managing director of Pacific Andes International Holdings, never dreamt he would find himself at the head of a frozen-fish company in Hong Kong. Malaysian-born Mr Ng graduated from the Louisiana State University in 1980. After returning to Asia, his first job was with a timber company. He later worked as a commodities trader in Singapore before returning to the family shipping business in the city state. After a downturn in the trade, he came to Hong Kong in 1985 to help set up Pacific Andes. The company started life as a trader of frozen shrimps, but Mr Ng's gut feeling led it towards greener pastures. In the early 1990s, seeing the 'huge potential of the consumer market in China', he led the company towards the frozen-fish business there and took advantage of cheap labour to develop a fish-processing operation. The Informer asked Mr Ng about the secrets to success. Q: What made you decide to switch from the shrimp trading business to frozen fish? A: In the beginning, we concentrated on trading frozen shrimp - buying from China and selling to the United States and Europe. However we found that [it] did not generate a steady income. In 1991, we decided to divert our business to selling frozen fish in China and at the same time make use of the low labour costs to process fish fillets there for export. Q: Did you find it difficult to gain entry to the industry? A: If you wanted to sell fish in China, you could not sell expensive species as the country was still poor. Therefore we used under-utilised species. We started with the low-cost Alaskan Pollock, which cost about 25 US cents a kilogram. That was a good-value product. I remember at first when we sold the frozen fish to the Chinese they were a bit sceptical. They thought: 'How come these fish have no heads? Aren't they fresh?' But later they didn't really care about the head because the fish was so cheap. Then we got some Alaskan Pollock with heads and sold them. No one wanted to buy them because they thought the fish should be without heads. Q: With more Chinese people accumulating wealth and enjoying higher living standards, don't they prefer to buy fresh fish? A: In fact, you cannot get fresh fish in many parts of China. There are a number of reasons, such as the three-month ban on coastal fishing and seasonality factors. As a result most of the fish sold are frozen. It's the same in Singapore and Malaysia; despite their proximity to the sea you cannot get fresh fish there. Hong Kong is a very rare case. Chinese people would love to be able to buy fresh fish. But in my opinion, if the Chinese continue to accumulate wealth, their frozen-fish consumption will increase. Fresh fish is a competitor to our business, but of course it is more expensive. Restaurants might need fresh fish but household customers buy fish in the morning and cook it in the evening. The fish is no longer 'fresh' when you are preparing dinner, so there is no need to pay more for it. Q: Where is the fish you sell sourced? A: We have sourced fish from Iceland, Norway, Russia and even Antarctica. Q: Have you ever followed any of these fishing vessels? A: Yes, I have. The southernmost area I've been to is latitude south 57. It's a bit off the tip of Chile and close to Antarctica.